I've eaten the usual Italian fare, but I'd never eaten a calzone until this week.
I'm still not sure how to pronounce it.
A chef friend told me to check out the sausage calzone at Milano's NY Pizza in Southaven. So, that was my first stop.
When Joe Gomez, manager/owner/chef, brought the calzone to the table, he said, "This is a whole meal."
It sure is: A whole meal for two people. I ate about half of it. It's gigantic. Half of it now resides in my refrigerator.
Gomez described the calzone as an "apple turnover-looking thing," which is right-on, except it looks like an apple turnover on steroids.
They take a piece of dough, put the filling on top and roll the dough around it, Gomez said. The calzone I had was filled with mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan cheese as well as the sausage.
Gomez, who has heard the dish pronounced as "cal-zo-NEE," said he learned how to make them at Don Dino's, a restaurant on the lower side of Manhattan. He worked there, rising from dishwasher to cook, for 11 years or so.
He loves the combination of cheeses in the calzone. His personal favorite isn't on the menu; it includes chicken, mushrooms and tomato. "I can make anything you want," he said.
I like the sweet taste of Gomez's marinara sauce, which he said is a "family recipe." I didn't pour it over the calzone as some people do; I just drank it like tomato juice.
Gomez, by the way, received attention in 2007 after he made a pepperoni pizza for President George W. Bush, who was in Memphis for a fundraiser. Bush didn't personally visit Milano's NY Pizza, but after he received the pizza from an aide who bought the pizza for him, Gomez received a coin with the presidential seal on it.
Now a calzone fan, I decided to try it at a couple of other places.
Next stop was Little Italy Pizza. I love the buttery crust and the rich, almost buttery tasting filling of their calzone, which is made of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. This calzone is flatter than the one at Milano's. The shape is similar to a fried pie. A generous-sized fried pie.
"Looks like egg inside it," said Manfred Filsinger, who stopped by my table. I also thought the filling resembled scrambled eggs. The "scrambled eggs" look is the ricotta, said Little Italy manager Kent Bigham.
Matt Gooch, who was eating a calzone at the next table, said he often orders them at Little Italy. He also likes to order a slice of pizza when he orders the calzone. "I'm a fat person at heart," he said.
He also is a fan of the crust: "It's crispy, but it's also soft at the same time. Buttery. It's like the perfect combination of the two."
Gooch pronounces it "cal-ZONE." Nick Herbstrith, who was with him, pronounces it "cal-zo-NAY." He said there's a great "Seinfeld"episode about calzone that involves George Costanza. I looked it up on Google. It's called "The Calzone."
Calzones are a big deal at Memphis Pizza Café, which was my last stop. The hand-rolled dough is filled with mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and comes with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. You can add any of the 29 ingredients on the menu for 40 cents each and create your own calzone.
I went with the suggestion of server Ryan Woods, who said she likes spinach, Cajun chicken and mushrooms. I added pineapple and anchovies. Then, after she left, I noticed "artichoke hearts" on the list. I got up and asked her if I could add that, too, but she said the calzone was already in the oven.
With the Cajun chicken and the salty, fishy anchovies, the calzone tasted more like something I might find in New Orleans.
Gary Garlington, Memphis Pizza Café owner/operator, said the dough is the same used for their 10-inch pizza. "We just fold it over," he said. "I wish it was more complicated, but it's not."
Howard Stovall, who also was eating at Memphis Pizza Café, said the first calzone he had was at Sally's Pizza, a "great old line New England pizza joint," in New Haven, Conn., back in the 1980s when he was in college at Yale.
I liked Stovall's take on the calzone: "It's a definite commitment to volume."
Milano's NY Pizza is at 7065 Airways Blvd., No. 121, in Southaven; 662-349-8111.
Little Italy Pizza is at 1495 Union; 901-725-0280.
Memphis Pizza Café locations include 5061 Park; 901-684-1306.